Jump {Flash Fiction}

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{Continued from Part 1}

Her blood pressure plummeted as soon as she pushed through the squeaky main doors into the familiar, sea salt humidity that her pores had grown to crave.

Tilting on one leg, she slid on her right shoe, then the left, dropping her wrapped biscuit in transition.  She watched as it shed its napkin and plunked down the front steps.  With newfound energy, she bounced after it and scooped it up in mid-stride.

“Five second rule!” she proclaimed, raising the flaky hunk in triumph before stuffing the whole mess into her mouth, moving through the mist as though parting waters.

Necessity had eschewed the Five Second Rule several months prior.

Most recently, she and “GiGi” had devoured an upturned box of Krispy Kreme donuts.  Perhaps it was the result of a sugar high, but right after that meal GiGi had told her, in an eyeball-to-eyeball moment of rare lucidity, that she reminded her of her own daughter.

She hadn’t known what to say in return, so she stuck out her arm and side-hugged this powdered-sugar-faced friend.  Upon contact, GiGi burst into tears.  She stayed frozen like that, but only until GiGi began wiping her nose on her sleeve.

Twelve hours later, “Tinker” told her that GiGi had jumped off the Skyway Bridge.

Before Donut Day, she hadn’t known that GiGi had any children.  All that lady seemed to love was her dopey, tailless cat.  But when someone you care about leaves behind something they cared about, suddenly you care about it, too.

“Time to find that drat cat,” she thought as she watched the traffic lights direct the empty streets.  “Where’s a pack of Claritin when you need it?” she whined, giving her left eye an anticipatory rub.

Yet this, she knew, was what her life had become; she was now in the business of finding things.

Photo Credit

*Joining the Five Minute Friday writers in today’s prompt, JUMP. Last week, my new FMF friend, Fiona, challenged me to build upon this piece using subsequent FMF prompts.  I’ve taken up the experiment.  I do not know where it will lead, or for how long, but hope you will enjoy the ride.  And maybe soon this character will get a name.  Thanks for reading. 🙂

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Here {Flash Fiction}

photo shoes on line 2

She opened her eyes after her first deep sleep in three weeks, wondering how she made it to this bottom bunk plastic mattress.

“If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!” read the poster with the outstretched-armed, blue-sashed cartoon Jesus taped to the glossy-paint cinderblock wall.

“Another day, another shelter,” she mused as her arm lunged under her head where her pillow should be for her sack.  Hand grabbing air, she jerked upright, firmly smacking her forehead on the bed frame above.  Wincing, she remembered losing her things to a toothless man two days before.

The head smack made the fluorescent lighting extra bright.  She quickly scanned the beds and women around her.  She heard male voices further down the hall.

“Gentlemen versus Ladies,” she sighed, flopping back onto the bed.  “This place must be upscale.”

The room smelled like teenage boy laundry dipped in turkey gravy, and held scattered conversations directed at no one in particular.

In an adjacent bed, a wild-haired form peeked out from under a tattered blanket and sputtered words at a tightly gripped, matte-finished family photo boasting the Olan Mills logo.

“Probably from the eighties.  Probably not even her family,” she guessed of the picture.

A younger face she recognized but could not place bent down, trespassing into her dotted lined personal space.  “Hey! You slept through the meal,” it snarled with tobacco-induced grit as it thrust a napkin-wrapped biscuit under her nose.

She accepted it in silence.

Another female voice cut through the murmured chaos, announcing “Lights Out!” in a lukewarm, syrupy sweet lilt that reminded her of canned peaches.

All went dark.

“This is too much,” she thought.

She began to hear sniffles from overhead.  The high-pitched whimper of a young child.  And then the singing started; a mother-daughter duet of “Twinkle, Twinkle” and rhythmic nose-blowing.

“Oh God,” she groaned as she sat up.  “I can’t be here anymore,” she announced too loudly into the dark.  She gripped her biscuit, scooped up her lace-free sneakers and plodded to the door, half-conscious, coasting on the fumes from which she’d feed her broken soul.

Photo Credit

*Joining the Five Minute Friday writers in today’s prompt, HERE.  This piece is loosely based on my estranged aunt, who spent over half of her life homeless, despite my family’s guarded attempts to “rescue” her in the many material ways we thought necessary.  What do you think are the best ways to show Jesus to the homeless? 

Home {Flash Fiction}

ImageEagerly, she plants her feet inside, hub-centered, as ready as possible for the oncoming assault on her senses.

At once she hears shouts of “Yellow Belly!” and the slap of Uno cards on the vinyl tablecloth; the obscenely loud ring of the telephone; the whiz of a ping pong paddle slicing the air from the direction of the summer kitchen.

She tastes fresh-baked pecan pie, sprinkled Christmas star cookies, and hand-cranked applesauce that (“I insist!”) goes with everything.  Her stomach rumbles.

She looks for the beckoning gallows of the next chalkboard hangman game; the calendar collection which magically multiplies joy with each duplicate date; his green rocker/brown pillow combo and her overflowing apron hook.

She sees all and none of it.

Nodding her head toward the stranger, her inner six-year-old smiles, “Thanks for the look around.”

Reluctantly, she lets go of the familiar slope of the screen door’s wrought iron handle, pleasantries pushing her back to the rental car.

They just don’t make ’em like that anymore.

*Today I am joining The Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday writers for the first time.  The prompt: HOME.  This story was inspired by the {re}visit to my grandparents’ farmhouse that I hope to take one day.   

Dear New Friend

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Dear New Friend,

I see you over there, not knowing where to put your hands.  Once all of these other people go away, I’d love to come over and introduce myself.  Maybe even sit awhile.  Let’s freeze time together.

I’ve met my very best friends this way, during cold turkey, brave heart moments. Knowing it is of the Lord.

As I tug on my sweater I might tell you how I spent my weekend fumbling with power tools to build baby mobile centerpieces for a friend’s shower.  That, to my relief, none collapsed until the party had ended.

I might tell you that I clean my house by stuffing everything into my closet, or that I can’t decide how short to go for my next haircut.

I might tell you about growing up in the giant sandbox of Saudi Arabia and how any day below 70 degrees is Freezing Cold.

I might tell you how I finally trusted Jesus after a great heartbreak and giving up on the “try hard” life.

Or that I quit my fancy job as a lawyer to go on mission trips, completely freaking out my parents.

I might tell you about meeting my husband and our whirlwind romance of purple sunsets and Indian rooftops.

I might tell you I am currently selling a black leather hand-shaped chair, Step #749 in the five year process of transforming his former bachelor pad into Home Sweet Home.

I might tell you that the toddlers rolling on the floor over there are mine and, yes, they are always that active.

I might ask you if you are addicted to Starbucks (me too), if you read Kate Morton (me too), or if you consider a bowl of cereal a complete meal (me too).

After a long while, I might tell you that I love writing, how it forces me to think and sit still, how I use pen and paper, smearing ink all over my left hand.  How I scratch out, draw arrows, and, how once I’ve got it right, it feels carved there forever.  Which makes me so happy.

Or I might not.  But I truly hope that I would.

It’s so nice to meet you….

A Writer’s Prayer

My Father, Divine Creator, Lover of the Written Word,

Take me to a place where stars dance and rocks cry, of time suspended and colors unidentified, to race with angels and twirl on the glittering sea.

Remove me from myself and guide me.  Surprise me.  Delightfully surprise me.

Trembling, I bow at your feet, asking to glimpse the shadows of your Glory and live to tell about it.

Pour Your Beauty, Your Mystery, into these empty, open hands.

And whether one word or many is captured here, let me end wanting, knowing and loving You more.  May You find this offering — my worship — acceptable in Your sight.

In Jesus’ Precious Name I pray,

Amen

 

Buried Treasure

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I stood over the kitchen sink
scrubbing chars off cookie sheets,
tears dropping like bombs
into Palmolive bubbles.

Could I leave my babies,
three and twenty months,
for five whole days?
One hundred twenty breathless hours?

NO.
I am their Mommy.
They need
ME.

But there, in purple rubber gloves
the Lord met me, saying
“Tucking them in each night — Good.
Loving their Daddy well — BEST.”

So I packed a bag,
took his hand
and flew where
apron strings can’t reach.

But not before I tucked
into my mother-in-law’s hand
their schedule, favorite foods,
medical guardian forms.

These gems, however,
I purposely did not leave her:

That His peanut butter sandwiches
get folded, not cut. That his first bite
will be in the middle of the crease
and he will leave behind a crust “smile.”

That She will hand up her army of stuffed animals,
one by one, for kisses and cradling
before she allows you to
pull her from her crib.

That certain songs will cause Him
to run to retrieve his “dancing shoes,”
which he will struggle to pull on in time
to dance across the living room carpet.

That She will yank out
any hair clips or elastics
not placed in specific Bermuda Triangle
quadrants of her head.

That His left leg will be
touching the floor mid-nap
and should be pushed back up
or he will fall out of bed, waking early.

That She will raise her palms
to the sky and join in singing
“Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul”
at the side of her crib each bedtime.

Instead, I tucked these things
deep in my heart
as buried treasure,
my precious, priceless Mama Gold.

I know my mother-in-law
would understand.
She is a mother,
after all.

And this week, as she sifts and pans their lives
I know she will discover gems of her own,
hold some up to the light
to sparkle free.

But most, I suspect, she’ll tuck
deep in her heart
as buried treasure,
her precious, priceless Grandma Gold.

Photo Credit

*This is my first time joining the Imperfect Prose writing group hosted by Emily Wierenga. Please click the button below to read others’ beautiful writing inspired by this week’s prompt, “Mother.”

The Scale

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My daughter has never seen me weigh myself.

I would like to claim this is due to some intentionality on my part; an effort to protect her from attaching significance to the numbers on the scale.

But it’s a fluke.

Before she could walk, my husband moved the scale from a corner of our bathroom floor to the garage so he could weigh some backpacks before his Guys Weekend hiking the Appalachian Trail.

I never brought it back inside.

This does not mean I stopped using it.

For weeks, during that golden mid-day hour where both kiddos napped, I would run to take my shower.  Slip off my clothes, slip on my flip flops.  Tiptoe to the garage, ducking as I navigated storage boxes and dust bunnies, lest anyone catch a peek of my naked forehead through the high garage door windows.

And I would ever-so-lightly step barefoot onto that silver pedestal.  My wide eyes would shimmy up the emergency red needle and find my whole self crammed in the white space between the dashes.

Taking in the large print numbers, my problem solving would begin.

Minus one for big feet.

Minus one for long hair.

Subtract total from yesterday’s.

Then, I’d slip my flip flops back on, run into the house and pretend that never happened.

I wish I didn’t care about the number on the scale, but I do.

Usually, anyway.  Because, right now, I am in my second trimester of pregnancy and I have not weighed myself at home in months.  (The nurses do plenty of that for me.)

I am relishing this glorious reprieve from that dreaded red needle.  Because my answer in this season to “How much do I weigh?” is simply, “More than yesterday.”

As my body gets heavier, my heart happily sinks into a smaller and smaller number of life’s menu items.

I’m scooping deep, pressing down into a few people, ideas and dreams.  I’m tasting long and often of my favorite things.

Take away my days spread thin, in search of the perfectly balanced life.

There is new beauty appearing in this leaning over and pressing heavy into my family and friends, my passions, my Jesus.

Let these be the deep stretch marks I leave on this world.

*After a terribly long absence, I am overjoyed to be rejoining the talented writing group that meets on Mondays as part of Amber C. Haines‘ series, Concrete Abstractions, at www.therunamuck.com as she explores writing out spirit through the concrete things of life.  This week’s topic, SCALE.

The Horse

News last week triggered a tailspin, the white-knuckle kind that leaves a burn in your chest and grit in your teeth.  Black Hat Fear has been lurking and my heart is weary from moonlit porch vigils, hours of shotgun-toting snarls into the dark, “Get Off My Land.”

Sometimes I need to change scenes and get dizzy on purpose.

Hem in where Fear holds no ticket.  Hear the gate clink behind me, pick my horse based on lane and favorite color.

Wave and wave and wave at my people, who thrill to see me happy, dimples finally showing.

I’ll ride ’til I realize I’m no longer pretending, feel the peal of the pipe organ coax out wild Hope, and lean into the lure of certain Joy — all of these bright bells and whistles just for me.

***

Watch here and smile wide with me today?

Credits: Photo 1; Photo 2

*Joining Amber C. Haines at www.therunamuck.com as she leads a group of writers through her Concrete Abstractions series, writing out spirit through concrete things in life.  Today’s word, HORSE. 

The Chain Letter

The unsuspecting bite down hard
on cheap content strung together like
fake pearls from a hawker’s duffle;
A back-alley transfer, pony up
and you’ll be left alone.

The promise is a saving purpose,
a one act play on sympathies.
Join Crusaders for the non-existent,
hook verbal chains around your soul
and stamp it out, forward march.

The generous enlist,
clamp on hearts dear,
lend credence to the lie, drag
down in cheap trade for
costume jewelry peace.

Break link and earn dishonor,
red carpet roll out for a seven year plague.
Even skeptics calculate,
tuck letters flat in low dresser drawers.
How old would I be?

What if we called it Bluff,
yanked Just from just in case
with word power brave and sharp?
You can’t be bound! Love does not barter;
You, yes, YOU are necessary.

Copy, paste. Pass on letters
unscrambled over light,
a misfit chain gang for the King,
a mass recycling
of exponential Grace.

Photo Credit
*Experimenting with poetry and joining Amber C. Haines‘ series, Concrete Abstractions, at www.therunamuck.com as she explores writing out spirit through the concrete things of life.  This week’s topic, CHAIN.

The Table

olive tree

Mara bent over the table and raised the saw in her trembling hand as tears poured down her face.  Night had fallen in Nazareth and, except for the animals, she was alone in her house.  A warm heaviness blanketed her; still, her skin crawled with unwelcome goosebumps.

She was really going to do this.

She watched the shadows of moonlit branches strike chords over the brown and yellow streaks of olive wood.  A dozen years ago, Jesus had built this table for her, right inside this room.  He had carved the branch of a thousand-year-old olive tree, fit it right into the stone wall beside her bread oven.  When Mara first glimpsed its breathtaking polish and engravings, she panicked.  Surely she could not afford something so extravagant.  But Jesus had assured her it was a gift.

And now she was going to chop it in half.

Memories flooded back from the day she and her husband, Simon, had clamored into the synagogue with the rest of the village to hear Jesus teach.  How hometown pride had morphed into rage, and her people spat, screamed and shamed.  She had grabbed Simon’s cloak so he could run fast after Jesus with a mind to murder.

Mara remembered another day when the herald had announced that Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified, but that three days later his tomb had been found empty.  She had vomited on the spot.

Now, seized with foreign passion, she took the blade to her table.  The oil lamp danced as she cut.  “It’s what He’d want,” she prayed as a mantra with each pull of the saw.  For Mara had since met her old neighbor boy for the first time.  She knew what to do.

A dizzying, sweet aroma filled the stagnant air as the dense olive wood slowly split, shavings mixed with flour mixed with sweat and tears.  Her head spun as she wrestled with the gift given by her Lord.  She said goodbye to the altar where she pounded out her daily rhythm, the pressing in and pushing down, the kneading, waiting, grinding.

By sunrise, the table lay in four jagged pieces outside her narrow door.  This new day, and every thereafter, she dragged them into the courtyard where she laid them over rolled up mats, picnic low.  Sometimes banquet style, sometimes as floating islands to accommodate more.  Mara offered her bread for free and spoke forgiveness to those who once tried to push her Savior off a cliff.  She prayed for her brothers and sisters out loud while looking straight into their eyes, in Jesus’ Name.

People came hungry; Truth poured out.  They sang and prayed with palms open, calling out miracles and receiving Grace.  Here, at the table over rocky terrain, they served, listened, shared and sacrificed, rich and poor elbows bumping, young and old hands gripping.  Here, together, they gathered ’round their new daily rhythm, the lifting up and breaking off, the needing, waiting, rising.

One hot night after the gathering, Mara assembled the table in its original form outside her house so she could sleep under the stars.  She laid down on top, breathed in the sweet smells of olive wood, life spilled and eternity glimpsed.  She breathed out, and Jesus of Nazareth welcomed her Home.

At sunrise, a merchant found her with her hand resting near her heart, over an engraving made by the table’s Builder that Mara, having no formal education, had never been able to read.

In royal lettering, it simply said, “Broken for You.”

Image Credit: ePublicist

*Experimenting with fiction and joining Amber C. Haines‘ series, Concrete Abstractions, at www.therunamuck.com as she explores writing out spirit through the concrete things of life.  This week’s topic, TABLE.  You may read the account of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth in Luke 4:14-30, and mention of church growth throughout Galilee in Acts 9:31.  Thank you for reading.